Word Count: 1030
It was just supposed to be a quick trip to the necessary before heading home. Three beers in less than two hours had made such a visit advisable, though they had most definitely not made him drunk. Really, he had not even been tipsy, let alone three sheets to the wind. Of course, making his father, not to mention his younger brothers, believe that fact would no doubt be tantamount to Hercules cleaning the Augean Stables.
Adam winced. Perhaps he should have chosen another of the Twelve Labors seeing as he might soon find himself engaged in a similar task for far longer than a single day.
Adam swallowed and then sighed. He most certainly would be spending considerable time at hard labor if he could not convince his pa that he had not been inebriated and that his attack on a representative of the railroad company with whom they would be negotiating a timber contract in less than twenty-four hours was totally justified. Adam cleared his throat and gave a slight cough. At least it was justified from his point of view. A man’s point of view was, well, his point of view and the only point of view that a man had at his disposal. Pa should understand that his point of view being based on a complete misunderstanding of what he had seen really was not something for which Adam should be held to account. After all, things sometimes were simply not what they appeared to be when first seen, even when a person was level-headed and observant and most definitely not drunk. If the man behind the saloon had been accosting the girl, well, then everything he had done would have been considered necessary, if not heroic.
Not that he had been looking to be a hero, most definitely not. It was simply that any man, drunk or sober, who heard a girl’s screams would have come to the conclusion that the girl was in trouble and thinking that, well, any man worth his salt would have gone to the rescue. Pa himself would have led the charge if he had been there. How could anyone have known the screams had begun only because a rat had run over the girl’s foot? Obviously, he could not have known, and such an explanation would never be the first one to enter a man’s mind.
As to what had happened after he decided to rush to the rescue, well, the important fact was that he had broken Mr. Hopper’s nose only after Hopper had split his lip. If he could understand Hopper’s thinking the black-clad figure grabbing him in a dark alley was a would-be attacker, then surely he could make Hopper understand that he had thought Hopper was a molester. Well, not that Perry Hopper, railroad executive and New York gentleman, was a molester of women, but that the man with his hands on the screaming woman was a molester. Hopper should be able to see that there had been a rush to judgment on both their parts. He was sure that as a man of business, Hopper had enough sense not to let a simple misunderstanding, a matter of misperception on both their parts, influence a major business decision. Pa should have enough confidence in his powers of persuasion and tact to see that the negotiations need not be affected by this incident at all, not at all.
Adam’s head dropped into his hands bringing his nose closer to his shirt. The pungent fumes rising from the alcohol-soaked material generated a low moan. Surely his father would believe him when he said that the whiskey had been spilled on him after the altercation with Hopper, or at least Pa might have believed him if little brother had not used that excuse a dozen times already when darling Joe came home reeking from spirits. Adam sighed and then gave a small snort at the thought that his baby brother had managed to make it almost certain that the simple truth would sound like an obvious, or even worse, a cliché lie. Pa, though, would certainly realize that if his eldest, most highly educated son was going to tell a blatant lie, he was creative enough to come up with something new, especially as his lies in the past had always been at the very least imaginative.
Hearing the door leading from the office of the jail open, Adam forced himself to raise his head. He watched his father and brothers enter and pushed down a flare of anger at Roy Coffee for being so unreasonable as to hold him at the jail until Doctor Martin finished with Hopper and the matter of pressing assault charges could be settled. Adam had hitherto considered the Virginia City sheriff a friend and a reasonable man.
“Pa.” Adam’s made his voice entirely calm.
“Adam Stoddard Cartwright!” Ben’s voice was far from calm, and it was clear to Adam that his pa had heard at least one account of the night’s events already.
“Now, Pa, it’s just a misunderstanding, and it will all be settled soon.” Adam’s voice remained at an even keel.
“I want an explanation, Adam!” The words snapped with wrath.
“Well, Pa, first of all you need to know that I was not drunk.”
Ben stared at his bleary-eyed eldest son, sniffed, recoiled in obvious recognition of the odor emanating from that same son, placed his hands on his hips, and brought his eyebrows down in a fierce scowl. “Not drunk?” The only sentiment clearer in Ben’s tone than anger was disbelief.
“I’m not drunk; I wasn’t drunk. I only had three beers, and the whiskey was spilled on me.” Adam kept his curse mental as the sound of his youngest brother’s giggle filled the air. Ben snorted, Hoss shook his head, and Adam just closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall. As Ben’s voice began to roar past his ears, the thought that came to prominence in Adam’s mind was that he really needed to make a quick trip to the necessary.